G’day mates! That’s so cliché, but I’m a proud Aussie. What are you gonna do? Oy, it’s Heath Ledger, here to tell you about my farewell to Hollywood film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. As fate would have it, this would serve as my last movie. Had I known it would be my last, I definitely would have let my Joker performance in The Dark Knight be my swan song. Be that as it may, working for Terry Gilliam was no dull experience and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary.
Gilliam co-pens and directs this ornate morality tale, set in modern London. It’s the story of an unsuccessful traveling sideshow, the center of which is Dr. Parnassus’ ‘Imaginarium.’ Patrons have the splendid opportunity to step into a dream world of their own imagination. Once there, they must choose between good and evil. Should they choose evil, they become property of Mr. Nick, the Devil himself. Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) and Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) have a long history. The doctor once won a wager with Mr. Nick that earned him immortality. In one fateful deal with the Devil, Dr. Parnassus asked to have his youth restored for romantic reasons in exchange for his immortality. The Devil obliged with the caveat that Parnassus surrender his first born at the age of 16. At collection time, Mr. Nick makes one more wager to give Parnassus a chance to keep his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole). They would compete through the Imaginarium. The first to claim 5 souls, keeps Valentina. As Parnassus and company search for willing customers, they find me, Tony, hanging around. I join the band of players and my winsome spirit lures several candidates into the Imaginarium. I try to help Dr. Parnassus mend his past and retain his lovely daughter.
It sounds like a good enough story but somewhere in the execution of the film the story gets jumbled and sloppy. Gilliam’s penchant for strange imagery and animation seemed to overshadow the potential of the story. It seemed some of his images were recycled from his Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life days. Visually, you could leave the film feeling like it was made seven years ago. I believe many viewers will feel okay about this film about 40% of the way through, especially sheilas happy to see me on screen again. As it starts to lull, it’s awakened briefly by my good friends Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Ferrell playing alternate forms of my Tony character inside the Imaginarium. I love those blokes for stepping in to rescue the film. That part is done so well that you wouldn’t know it wasn’t a part of the original plan. Once the novelty of that wears off, the story struggles to land.
You know, on second thought, I’m relieved that my farewell to your lovely faces was not done behind white make up and a sinister laugh. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is not the stellar send off some hoped it would be, but it is a gentle smile and nod from me to you after our ten year silver screen journey. It could have been worse. What if Monsters Ball or A Knight’s Tale was my final film? I give Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus a 2.5 out of 5 babbles.